Service dog helping Midland kindergartner with special needs

Service dog helping Midland kindergartner with special needs

MIDLAND, TX (KWES) - A family in Midland is using a service dog to help their daughter with special needs and the dog has quickly become the little girl's best friend.

Emery Ham is just like any other child in Kindergarten.

She's learning math and how to read, but Emery's mom noticed there was something missing.

"A lot of the time, they include her and we are so thankful for that, but at the same time, when kids are playing together she has a hard time getting in on the conversation," said Jill Ham, Emery's mother.

Emery has down syndrome and a speech delay, which sometimes makes communicating and making friends difficult. Emery's mom realized her daughter needed a best friend.

That's where Piper comes in.

The family applied to Canine Companions for Independence on a whim. After months of waiting, they met several dogs in August and Piper was handpicked to be Emery's new friend.

"It's a wonderful thing to have a companion and a friend you can play with, but also they are learning responsibility and it's helped Emery with her communication skills and her speaking has greatly improved since we got Piper because she talks to piper all the time," said Jill.

Piper is as a skilled companion, a dog trained to enhance independence for children or adults with physical, cognitive, and development disabilities.

The non-profit also offers dogs that help adults with physical disabilities, hearing dogs and facility dogs that work with professionals in a visitation, education, criminal justice or healthcare setting.
    
Emery helps feed, water, and walk Piper.

In turn, Piper helps makes doing homework more fun.

"I encourage any family with a child with special needs to look into a canine companion. It's a huge responsibility, but there have been great benefits," said Jill.

Jill and Emery will speak to students at Trinity School Friday at 8:45 a.m. The school is raising money to donate to Canine Companions for Independence in the month of February. Kindergarten students will be selling small items like pencils, pops, and pickles in the commons of the school.

For information on how to get a service dog, visit: http://bit.ly/1O1n0o3.

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